Life is like solving a jigsaw puzzle…

Oh, how frustrating…to come to the last few pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and discover a piece or two are missing!  What was that all about?!  How could we invest all that time and effort into matching up the myriad of pieces without ever being able to complete it…without ever being able to see the entire picture?!  We had seen the picture on the cover of the box, but will never have the satisfaction of seeing the life size puzzle displayed in its entirety.

On the contrary, when we open a sealed package of a new puzzle, we can be assured all the pieces are enclosed-just waiting to be restored to their original precut form. There is confidence in knowing our time and efforts will result in the intended outcome.  Thus, the process brings us enjoyment and eventually satisfaction in having solved the puzzle.

Life is like solving a jigsaw puzzle.  The puzzle is made up of a random number of pieces which have been cut from a cardboard image or design for the purpose of being placed together in the specific order to recreate that original design.  Each of us, on the other hand, have been created by God in his image as a totally unique individual with a purpose specific to us alone.  He has designed/planned out our life and equipped us with gifts that will enable us to accomplish that purpose.

Just as we strive toward the vision of completing our in-progress puzzle, we have our own personal hopes and dreams.  Amazingly enough some at a very young age have a clear vision of their future.  It appears they never waiver from that vision until it is accomplished.  That is the exception, however, for most of us have aspirations which evolve over time as we traverse this life through trials, challenges and victories. Nevertheless, within the depths of our spirit lies the vision implanted within us to guide us toward our intended purpose. 

There are times when we force a puzzle piece thinking it is the right one.  Eventually, however, we will discover it just won’t work!  We may be deceived by the shape or colors thinking we have gathered all those similar colors together in anticipation of pulling a large portion of the picture together all at once.  Yet try as we will, we cannot force those wrong pieces into place.  It is rather the slow, deliberate process of working one piece at a time into place that will eventually result in completion the masterpiece. 

In life there are times when we try to force various situations (i.e., relationships, careers, major life decisions) that appear to be good fits for us.  Yet it takes time, patience and prayerful discernment to get to know someone, to gather information regarding a decision, etc.  Oftentimes, it is only after we have allowed a person into our life spending time with them that we discover they are not a good fit for us.  If we force those wrong relationships or situations, we will find unhappiness, disappointment and disruption in our life.  Just as in the puzzle piece, if we have to force it, it just isn’t the proper fit for our life.

Solving a complex jigsaw puzzle can be quite time consuming.  The time spent working on it can be tedious and frustrating–or it can be an enjoyable experience.  Those who are compulsive may find themselves compelled to go it alone sitting up into the late hours of the night or day unable to stop until it is finished, becoming anxious and stressed. To the contrary, those who view it with joyful expectation, as a diversion from the serious routine of life, will discover a time shared with others filled with laughter, bonding, a peaceful escape throughout the hours spent together trying to solve the puzzle.  Thus, the vision can be shared and the experience enriched by doing so together.

In life there too is the time factor in accomplishing our dreams.  When all is well, time is meaningless.  Yet we all have our times of waiting and loss…none of us are exempt.  We find it difficult to understand why God makes us wait or allows suffering.  We may have waited years for a child, the right spouse, the right job or to equip ourselves for a job.  We may have suffered the loss of a loved one, a serious illness, a divorce, etc.  Those devastating struggles may last for what seems to be an eternity.

The waiting, however, does not need to be unbearable.   Do we allow ourselves time to grieve and open up to those around us?  Are we angry, unforgiving, or despondent over things that haven’t worked out for us?  Or do we forge ahead with perseverance and determination? Do we find the joy and peace of being present in the moment, appreciating what we have rather than lamenting that which we have not yet accomplished?  Or are we anxious and fearful for what lies ahead?  Do we hold onto the vision…or abandon it?  Again, our personal hopes, dreams and, yes, struggles, can and should be shared by others who are capable and eager to lift us up.  Those relationships and the experiences shared with them will indeed enrich our lives.

What if we don’t have a clear vision to which we can aspire?  What if the box revealing the final image of the puzzle has been lost?  In both cases the solution is there in spite of our temporary struggle in finding the solution.  Through our belief in knowing we will succeed, we will find our way.  We must relax, enjoy the experience, the anticipation, expectation, and the beauty of both the puzzle and life…realizing both were created to fit into place.  It is then we will savor the experience.

If you’re in the midst of waiting or going through a loss, have faith in knowing your life story has already been written by the hand of God.  For no matter how devastating the circumstances may appear, His story of “you” is one of love and peace.  God is walking beside you, guiding you towards the peace that “surpasses all understanding”, and loving you as you seek his will in living the story he has created within you.

The Gift of Love…

It was a Norman Rockwell Christmas eve as we drove through the snow-covered roads into the small downtown square surrounded by tiny shops alive with colored lights and shoppers rushing to check off that final gift from their list. The snow began to fall at a faster pace as with a chill I sat curled up in the front seat between my parents. My heart was alive with the joy and expectation of Christmas…perhaps the reason that throughout the years this has remained one of my earliest memories. My father parked the car and helped my two older sisters (who couldn’t have been more than 4 and 6 years old), slide out of the backseat onto the slippery sidewalk. As they rushed into a nearby store, I wished I could have tagged along; nevertheless, I was content watching the sites of Christmas through the car windows with my mother.

A few minutes later, my father and the girls returned with rosy cheeks and smiling faces. The proprietor of the jewelry store had given each girl a small snowman from the store display. Over the years…beyond the time we children had grown and left home… those two snowmen were displayed prominently every Christmas in our family home together with the tree and all the traditional trimmings. They were referred to as the snowmen from Roger Briney’s Jewelers. I never asked what last-minute gift my father had purchased that Christmas eve so many years ago, but that night was a special memory.

That memory became enlightened this past summer when my husband Jim and I were visiting my hometown…most specifically to visit my aunts and uncles. As always, it was a precious time together. As is our tradition, I spend the last few hours talking with my aunts…both catching up on family happenings and reminiscing over times past.

As I sat down on the couch to chat, my Aunt Shirley Ann rose up from the couch and returned with a large gift bag. She sat next to me and pulled out a large, somewhat aged box wrapped with a red ribbon and a card addressed to my aunt and uncle in my mother’s handwriting. As I opened the card and gift, I discovered it was the card and gift she had given them for their 40th wedding anniversary. Inside the box was a lovely glass platter commemorating that special day. All were preserved perfectly, and she explained she would like Jim and I to have it for our 40+ years of marriage…a gift my mother had given them. I was so touched by her thoughtfulness.

Aunt Shirley Ann then reached into the gift bag and retrieved a small box. As I opened the tiny jewelry box, I discovered a lovely vintage ring. Within the intricate gold setting was an emerald cut peridot, my birthstone. My initial thought leapt to the recognition that she and I shared the same birth month. I always knew her birthday was in August, but had never thought about us sharing the same birthstone. Again I was so taken back by her immeasurable thoughtfulness…that she would give me her birthstone ring! Then she began to explain it was given to her by my father. The tears began to flow down my cheeks at as I realized how my father, who had passed away so many years ago before I was able to know him as an adult, had personally purchased this very ring for her. As I placed it on my finger, she proceeded to tell me he had given it to her one Christmas…that he bought it at Roger Briney’s Jewelers! My mind raced as I flashed back to that Christmas eve so many years ago…to the sites and sounds of that special childhood memory. Could it have been that same night? The more we talked, the more we became convinced it was the same night. I was overwhelmed by Aunt Shirley Ann’s heartfelt sensitivity. Just as I had lost my father, she had lost a brother at such a young age.  She understood the depth of the gift she had given me…not just a tangible gift, but a connection to my father.

Although I thought the gift bag was empty, Aunt Shirley Ann proceeded to pull out a final gift. Within the tissue wrapping was a hand crocheted doily made by my grandmother. As I held it in my hand, I pictured the twinkle in my grandmother’s eyes and how that twinkle turned into a flash of a wink when she smiled at me. I felt the importance of family….a value that had been instilled within me throughout the generations…one that Jim and I strive to pass on to our children and grandchildren. This is the season of joy, peace and love…a time to share our love through the offering of gifts and hospitality. Aunt Shirley Ann wanted me to have a gift given to her from each my mother, my father and my grandmother. Those gifts are precious to me. Those memories are precious to me. However, it is her love that was wrapped up in that gift bag that will live forever in my heart. It is that same love that we give and the love that we receive that lives within our hearts.

This Christmas may your hearts reflect upon precious memories of the past and the vision of new memories to come with those you love and those who cross your paths. May the gifts you share come with love that lightens the heart. May God open our hearts with his spirit of joy, peace and love–that is, the most precious gift of all, his son Jesus. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


During one of my trips to Israel, I had the awesome experience of wading out into the Dead Sea-the lowest place on earth. I was captivated by its beauty yet highly aware and extremely cautious of the high salinity of this body of water. In fact, at one point I gasped in alarm as the stinging waters splashed into my eyes.

True to its name the Dead Sea is dying. Although it is being fed by the Jordan River, there is no outflow of waters from it. Thus, it is shrinking at an alarming rate. Its salt levels are so high that neither plants nor animals can survive within it. Nevertheless, within its depths lies precious minerals used in various anti-aging, cosmetic and healing products since the time of ancient Egypt.

Just as water flows in from the Jordan River, it not only stops there, but it is evaporating at an exceptional rate. In that respect lies a striking similarity between the Dead Sea and those who bask in the beauty and blessings of this life, yet fail to share those blessings with others.

We are all blessed with precious gifts and talents. Yet how often do we fail to recognize them? How often, due to procrastination, fear of failure or simply a negative attitude, do we allow them to lie dormant within ourselves simply failing to share them?

For those who have done just that, what did the world miss? Without the paintings, sculptures and architecture of Michelangelo, generations would be deprived of the beauty he left for this world, but even more generations of artists to follow him would have failed to have been inspired by his works. Had Thomas Edison not pursued/shared his talents he would not have invented the light bulb, phonograph, motion picture camera, and so many other modern contributions or held 1,093 patents in his name. On a very different, yet just as significant scale is the example of Mother Teresa and how she most humbly lived her life to simply care for others.

What lies within each and every one of us is precious. Yet with the distractions of this world, we tend to allow the days to pass without seeking, discovering and using those gifts. Don’t let another day pass without striving to share your God given gifts with another. It may be as simple as brightening one’s day with a kind word, compliment or a smile; listening to someone who is obviously troubled; apologizing for a misunderstanding (not a sign of weakness, but one of courage); sending a card or taking a meal to someone who is ill; giving respect and/or aid to a homeless outcast; or simply praying for one in need. However small the gesture, make a conscious effort of seeking out ways to serve, and the heartwarming response will change your life and the lives of those around you. Yes, if we open our hearts to understand and encourage our fellow travelers of this world, our gifts will not only be revealed to us, but will blossom exponentially. Your compassion for others may just give them the hope they felt was forever lost.

What makes you happy? What makes you feel the most alive? Within the answers to those questions lies the gifts of your heart. I believe you will find the answers in those examples above. You will experience happiness through what eventually becomes unconscious habits to make others happy. For it is there you will find your true passion. No matter what age or walk of life you may find yourself, there is the time and the opportunity to discover that passion and live life to the fullest. As St. Francis of Assisi said, “for it is in giving that we receive.” Thus, it is when we love that we receive love in return. That is the greatest gift of all.

The above analogy doesn’t end there. Interestingly enough man has intervened to attempt to save the Dead Sea by running a pipeline between it and the Red sea. We too can bring renewed lifelines to each other as we share the love of God through the smallest and simplest gestures in life. Just as His Divine presence lives within each of us, we must continue to ask him to lead us to the ones who need us each day. For it is there we will find our passion, our true happiness.

Today on All Saints Day, let us remember all those holy souls who lived their passion for bringing God’s heart and spirit to us. May their examples be a lifeline to us all!

Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? Is there someone who has been on your mind? Take a few minutes to stop and listen to your spirit. For it is there in the silence of your heart that you will find guidance, answers, specific direction and peace.

If there is something you’ve been longing to do, take that first step. That is always the most difficult. Once the process is in motion, you are on your way to accomplishing that dream.

If someone is on your mind, reach out to them. They may need comfort, encouragement or just need to know they have a friend who cares. On the other hand, they may have some specific wisdom to share with you. Nevertheless, there is a reason they were on your mind.

Just as the scripture from Esther reveals that “Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created”. Each and every moment of your life is an opportunity to live your purpose.

“took the road less traveled by…”

May 2018 by Penelope (Penny) Martin

Celebrating 20 years!

As I began to savor a yummy Dove chocolate, I glanced down to read the quote on the red foil wrapper… “Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations”.  I then flashbacked to the breathtaking scenery Jim and I witnessed as we traveled throughout Utah on our vacation last summer.  Driving through the treacherous roads woven amongst the red rocks to the Grand Canyon and its immense beauty, we were led to the most magnificent of views.  Had we stayed on the main interstates, we surely would have seen some amazingly beautiful sights off in the distance.  However, as we traveled through the narrow, perilous side roads, each new turn revealed to us what seemed to a more spectacular view than the one before.

We couldn’t help but think of how the early settlers of this country traveled throughout and explored such rugged territory including the Grand Canyon…how they struggled through not only the most treacherous terrain, but the harshest weather as well. Yet in spite of such adversity, they remained intent upon establishing a new life.  Their difficult path led them to, not only a land of beauty, but to the new life they were seeking.

So it is with life. If we take the easy road, we may be able to coast along.  But is that good enough?  Perhaps our life’s destination might be just okay, but don’t we want more than just okay?  Don’t we want to experience the utmost joy and beauty of life?

Holy Land Stone Company is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year!

When I look back to the early days of HLSC, I realize how little we knew about what we were about to undertake. Although we had Jim’s vision (providing a piece of Jerusalem Stone to remind us of our faith and religious heritage), we had no idea where this road would lead.   We ventured out into an industry completely unfamiliar to us with an entirely unique product line.  Yet we found it to be one that not only reminds us of our faith, but one that encourages us, inspires us and brings us together as a family of God, reminding us that we are His and He is always with us. I believe as Robert Frost wrote, we “took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

It is and has been a challenging and at times quite difficult road, yet one filled with beauty, hope, and so many heartwarming experiences. We see God’s hand at work in our customers, suppliers, employees and all those who walk this road with us.  This journey has and continues to make my life more fulfilling.  I wouldn’t have wanted to have miss out on any of it.  I wouldn’t have wanted to take an alternative, easier road.

As you walk the road of life, do you see a clear, smooth path or do you feel the struggles of life blocking your pathway to peace? At those times when the road becomes rough and you fear you may have lost your way, always remember it is those very struggles that develop your character and give you the compassion and wisdom to guide others through their difficult roads.  And most importantly, as you seek God’s guidance, you will discover His hand leading you through your uncertainty.

As we commemorate HLSC’s milestone, I thank you for traveling with us. May the road of life lead you to the most beautiful of destinations, and may you find inspiration and hope with every turn… perhaps even within the midst of a chocolate break!

In conjunction with our 20th anniversary commemoration, we are pleased to introduce our newly designed website:

It is with gratitude and love we say “see you later” to our dear friend Hope Lockwood who is retiring from Holy Land Stone after 12 years. Many of you know Hope for her joyful demeanor and eagerness to help as she greeted phone/in-house customers. In addition to her many contributions to HLSC, she served as our final quality control inspector as she packed orders. She always went the extra mile and prayed for those who were to receive each order. We will miss you, Hope, but know you will enjoy your retirement!

Have a blessed month!

Penny & the Holy Land Stone Team

Whether you think you can or can’t, you are right.

April 2018 by Penelope (Penny) Martin

A man was passing by an encampment of elephants.  They were not confined in cages, but rather each one’s single leg was tied to a simple rope.  The gentleman was puzzled as to why the elephants in their massive size and strength would not simply break free from their ropes and escape.  Thus, he asked the trainer why they just stood there without escaping.

The trainer explained how the young elephant calves are tied to a strong rope to restrain them.  They tug and struggle relentlessly until eventually they submit to the confines of the rope.  As they grow, they remain tied to this same size rope. As a result the elephants become bound by a false belief in their hopeless restrictions…a false reality that permeates into the very depths of their spirits.

Quite often we too hang on to false beliefs that have become ingrained into our subconscious.  Perhaps there were words of defeat spoken to us as children or throughout difficult times of our lives.  Perhaps years of negativity experienced throughout a relationship has left us with feelings of inadequacy and a false perception of who we truly are.  Or perhaps we may have gone through a series of trials that have left us defeated and somewhat cynical.

Nevertheless beneath the confines of our mind’s limitations, lies a world of hope.   Beyond the restraints of our false fears lies a life of unlimited possibilities.  In order to discover what truly lies within us, we must break free from these fears and restrictions.   As children of God created, not for failure, but for victory, we must soar beyond any past defeats knowing He will guide us toward becoming the person He intended us to become.

It takes time to shed those misconceptions. However, regardless of our age or stage of life, each new day is an opportunity to make a conscious effort to grow towards the truth.  We must decide each morning to step out of our comfort zone and do something new (i.e. reach out to meet with someone who has been on our mind; offer to help a difficult co-worker; volunteer at church, school, nonprofit, etc.; take someone to their doctor’s appointment; learn a new hobby; take a public speaking course, etc.).   It need be nothing on a grandiose scale…a simple act of kindness will do.

“We can do no great things, but only small things with great love.” —St. Teresa of Calcutta

 I guarantee you a bit of discomfort will bring a profound sense of accomplishment and inspire you to overcome your limitations.  Set your goals.  Begin with baby steps, and you will gain the confidence and satisfaction to stretch yourself even further.  Then at the end of each day, bask in your accomplishments and plan your next step.


God of deep waters and infinite riches, challenge me to go where I fear, to do what is difficult and what I thought could never be done. Push me to go to the deep waters of life and cast my net wide, for I put all my hope, trust and faith in you.Matthew Kelly

A couple of years ago after taking up horseback riding, I came to recognize a parallel between life and a particular aspect of my riding.  At times I have a tendency to look down while riding.  Whether I’m trying to gauge the position of my reins or watch my horse, my trainer is constantly “hollering” at me to “stop looking down and look up!”  He reminds me to look up in the direction of where I want to go, and then warns me if I look down, that is exactly where I’ll end up…on the ground!

So it is with life as well.  We must look up and focus on our future. Don’t look back at what you thought you couldn’t possibly do, but look forward to the unlimited possibilities God has placed before you.

The elephants were conditioned to believe they couldn’t escape.  Had they stepped out beyond the confines of their ropes, they would have discovered their freedom.  However, they remained trapped in the prisons of their minds.  We, however, through the grace and power of God, have the ability to defeat our fears and limitations.

Today is a new day…a day to discover what is holding you back and to face your self-doubts–leaving them forever behind you.  So don’t waste another moment.  Step out in faith, and never look back!